Bristol Humanities Hub

The new state-of-the-art Humanities Building is in the Arts Complex surrounded by a series of handsome of Victorian villas with Woodland Road nearby.

  • Client

    University of Bristol

    University of Bristol

  • Contractor


  • Value



  • Completion Date

    January 2020

    January 2020

Procurement Type:
Two Stage

Form of Contract:
NEC version 4

Contract Period: 86 weeks

Size: 29,375 sq ft

The Challenge

Restricted footprint – The dimensions of the site were 30 x 70m in a complex urban live environment adjacent to occupied Grade II listed properties.

Demolition in a confined live environment – The confined nature of the site required sensitive demolition.

Impact on adjacent Grade II Listed buildings – The original site comprised of an existing single storey building and external courtyard space, located behind the two main Grade ΙΙ listed villas.

Basement design – A key project driver was the basement solution confirmed as this was vital to achieving the budget and programme.

Design of the retaining structure – With budget and programme constraints to consider, a hybrid solution was developed, which moved away from the simplest option of using contiguous piling in all three areas.

Ventilation solution and occupancy level assumptions – We reduced occupancy levels, which enabled natural ventilation to be considered. This supported the aspiration in line with BREEAM Excellent.

The Solution

Restricted footprint – Due to the confines of the site, we could not use mobile cranes as these would have required lorries to support the mobile cranes, increasing congestion of local roads to an impractical level for our neighbours. As an alternative, we used a tower crane which occupied less room occupying only 5 x 5m and preventing unnecessary disturbance to the local community.

Demolition in a confined live environment – Demolition was planned to have minimum impact on students, faculty and adjacent privately owned student accommodation during holiday periods starting in July 2018. In collaboration with the client’s facilities management team, we isolated fire alarms and ensured there was a temporary fire strategy for retained buildings following demolition of existing structures.

Impact on adjacent Grade II Listed buildings – Adjacency to existing buildings was immediately identified during the pre-construction phase as a key area of design risk. Early works involved re-evaluating the basement perimeter, to increase the area between existing buildings and the boundary, whilst maximising the footprint to accommodate a lecture theatre, cinema, and plant room.

Basement design – The original basement depth and proximity to existing structures (party wall) and retained teaching facilities presented a risk to construction. During the design phase we relocated the basement, minimising the risk to programme, cost, and buildability. Our design team reviewed spatial planning and reconfigured internal layouts which were agreed in collaboration with the client’s project manager and client stakeholders. Our solution used off-site manufactured pre-cast basement walls which reduced programme time. This demonstrated a six-week saving to the original programme.

Design of the retaining structure – Retaining structure solutions:

  • Contiguous pile wall to part of the perimeter as a retaining system for two sides of the lecture theatre on the Northeast of the site, this is pinned with free standing cantilevers
  • Slope batters at 2.1m for remaining basement wall structure
  • Waterproofed contiguous pile wall with masonry face, incorporating drainage gulley
  • Precast wall favoured for remaining walls, with integrated damp proof membrane and stone backfill placed between the building’s steel frame structure

Ventilation solution and occupancy level assumption – We introduced natural ventilation on the first floor. Using thermal modelling we reassessed and rationalised the mechanical to natural ventilation. This aligned the scheme with the client’s aspiration to have natural ventilation wherever possible. This allowed reduction in the requirements of ventilation. We reduced large ducts within and on the side of the building creating additional floor space. We removed the need for large risers allowing us to provide extra cupboards and increased floor plan space.

The Results

  • To overcome the restricted footprint, ISG worked closely with Bristol City Council Highways Department to create a traffic-controlled loading lane on the busy Tyndalls Road. This enabled the efficient offload of materials via the site tower crane
  • By sequencing the demolition, we prevented possible uncontrolled collapse. This was achieved by the buildings being munched down to ground rather than dropped
  • Vibration monitoring ensured piling works for both the adjoining wall and the basement floor, from which the steel frame is mounted, did not impact on adjacent properties
  • The priority was to re-design the basement perimeter, with the requirement to both minimise risk to adjacent properties and enable sufficient space to construct the retaining walls. By re-positioning, the plant room, and subsequent risers, whilst maintaining the position of the lecture theatre, adequate space was created
  • ISG aligned the scheme with the client’s aspiration to have natural ventilation.



SME Spend


Added Value


Client Satisfaction

Client Testimonials

“I have much pleasure in welcoming you to the School of Humanities, a leading centre for teaching, learning and research the humanities located in the dynamic port city of Bristol.”

Contractor Performance | Commitments


100% payment within 30-day terms


100% waste diverted from landfill.

BREEAM Excellent

Green roof, photovoltaics, natural ventilation



CCS Score 42/50


4 Open Doors sessions

34 attendees to a Women in Property site visit

WOWEX (World of Work Experience) – 18 attendees with 5 accepted onto ISG’s apprenticeship programme

10 school and college visits engaging 400 young people

15 community events

10 jobs created


Handover & Aftercare Contractor Promise

SCF Framework Manager

Kingsley Clarke


Phone: 07805760622